FREQUENTIS wins New Zealand’s largest digital tower

A Frequentis digital tower system at Auckland International Airport in New Zealand is to initially act as a back-up contingency system, allowing air navigation service provider Airways New Zealand and its airline and airport customers to assess the viability of using the digital system as a full replacement for the existing tower in the future.

“The order from Airways is a proof of the confidence in the Frequentis experts, our way of working and our technology,” said Frequentis chief executive Norbert Haslacher. “Many of our customers are under great pressure to be efficient. This is where our digital tower solutions come in: they allow the operation of smaller airports that do not require full capacity utilisation by air traffic controllers, and they support operations at large airports, which is an important issue given the current controller shortage in Europe.

“In addition, new airports do not require the construction of an expensive tower, and the air traffic controllers themselves can work more comfortably because all information is displayed simultaneously on the virtual tower screen.”

Airways New Zealand has been interested in digital tower technology since 2012 and now wants to use it as a national alternative to conventional towers. The technology not only provides controllers with tools that assist them to do their job with an enhanced level of safety, it also offers better resiliency in poor weather and the opportunity to offer extended services to New Zealand’s regions.

Last year, Frequentis was awarded the contract to design and install the first digital tower at Invercargill Airport, a regional airport in the South Island. Invercargill digital tower is planned to go into operation in 2021 with Auckland Contingency following from 2022.

Frequentis has been implementing remote tower systems across the world and already has four operational systems, counting Austria, Germany, Iceland and Jersey in the UK. In April 2019 Jersey Airport became the first British airport to receive approval for the operational use of a digital remote tower, and since December 2018 Saarbrucken Airport in Germany has been controlled from a remote air traffic control centre 450km away in Leipzig. Both use Frequentis technology.

The German airports of Erfurt and Dresden are to follow in an expansion phase and will also be remotely managed from Leipzig. Additionally, Frequentis succeeded in winning several major orders from various countries and sectors in a short time frame, including Argentina and Brazil, and in October 2018 was awarded the first ever military remote tower order for the US Department of Defense.

The Remote Tower solution is based on a large number of sensors and cameras at the airport. The Remote Tower Centre and the responsible controller do not therefore have to be physically at the airport; the solution even allows several airports to be monitored from one facility. Numerous high-tech cameras with different capabilities enable the air traffic controller to see “clearly” even under difficult conditions – night, fog or heavy rain. Objects that endanger air traffic, such as birds, but increasingly also uncontrolled flying drones, can also be detected at an early stage.